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Family History

starter_pack_image__shop_image_142Family history can be fascinating and, with a little patience, very rewarding. You can buy an Archives Starter Pack in the online shop which will help you get started.

It is important to remember, always start with yourself and work backwards, step by step. Family history begins with you.Gather as much information as you can from living relatives and try to compile a tree starting from you. Include birth or baptism dates, marriages and details of deaths or burials. See just how far you go back before you have unknown events. At that point your research really begins. We have prepared a short video on "How to Trace Your Family Tree " Click here to view the video.

Family history research can be very time consuming and progress may sometimes be slow. Be patient; some days you will find every single person you are looking for, other ancestors could be well hidden in the records. Here at Woodhorn we offer a Professional Research Service and a Personal Mentor Service to help you along, following the links for further details.

Once you have done some background reading, next gather all the information, which you can from members of your own family. Get as many names, dates and places as possible for even if this is not always entirely accurate, it may provide useful clues and starting points. Having done this, some of the following sources may be of help.


ep_0481_bellingham_x_981802_142These record baptisms, marriages and burials and were first kept in 1538, although very few survive from that date. Even if your ancestor did not regularly attend the parish church, the registers are worth checking. Between 1754 and 1837, the law required everyone (except Quakers and Jews) to be married in a parish church and buried there, in the absence of a civil cemetery. Many registers have been microfilmed and several have been transcribed and indexed.


A survey of the population has been taken every 10 years since 1801, but 1841 is the first year that lists individuals. The census can be extremely useful since members of each household are listed with ages, occupations, relationship and place of birth.


By 1900 there were several civil cemeteries in Northumberland, administered by Burial Boards. Registers of burials and grave spaces often exist and occasionally cemetery plans.


From 1837, all births, marriages and deaths in England and Wales had to be reported to a local registrar. Registrars still keep the certificates, so if you know the date and place of the event, you can apply to the local register office for a copy. Indexes to births, marriages and deaths in England and Wales from 1837 to c.1930 can be searched online at Cerificates can be ordered online via .  Certificates covering the county of Northumberland can be obtained via the Northumberland Registrars


This was compiled by the Church of the Latter Day Saints and is an index to the baptisms and marriages in parish registers, mainly those pre-1813. For each county, it gives an alphabetical list so it is especially useful for tracing families who may have moved between parishes. However, not all parish registers are indexed on the I. G. I. This index can be searched online at


Gravestones can supply useful information about your ancestors. There are several lists available.


Newspapers are a valuable and often overlooked source. Not only do they provide useful additional information to events events detailed in other records, but in some cases they can be the only source of information available.


Due to the proximity of Scotland, Presbyterianism was strong in Northumberland and many mining communities were often  Methodist There was also a strong tradition of Roman Catholicism in the county and Northumberland Archives Service also holds the registers of several Catholic churches.


npr0108_p296_142Wills can often give information about next of kin, and also about social standing. Prior to 1858 wills were proven in church courts. In the case of Northumberland, this was generally the consistory court of the Diocese of Durham. These records are held at Archives and Special Collections, University of Durham . A microfilm copy of indexes to the wills and copies of some of them can be viewed in our search room. A catalogue to and images of the wills are available online at . From 1858 wills were proved in District Probate Registries. The Newcastle District Probate Registry covers Northumberland. Registered copies of wills proved there during the period 1858 - 1941 are available to view in our searchroom.



Northumberland Archives have numerous Northumberland Transcripts which are available to buy on Microfiche. To see a complete list and purchase options please click here .